The Taego Order

The Taego Order

TaegobowooThe Taego order is one of the largest Zen orders in the world. The Taego Order or Taegojong is also the second largest order in Korean Buddhism. They have over 3,100 Zen Temples and the beautiful (historical) Seonamsa is one of the Taego head monasteries. The 1600 year Taego order is growing rapidly in part because of its unique seminary and dharma instructor programs. It also allows ordained Zen (Korean: Soen) monks to marry with the belief that a married monk can be a great asset in sharing the Dharma and in counseling with the lay community. Currently about half of all Taego monks are married and half of the monks are celibate.

Buddhism entered Korea over 1,600 years ago. Korea is geologically, historically, ethnically, and culturally different from other Buddhist nations. According to Korean history, Master Taego Bowoo ushered in a new era for Buddhism in his country. Before Master Taego Bowoo, Korean Buddhism had five doctrinal schools and nine Zen schools (Oh-Kyo-Ku-San). Many Korean scholars still study the development and characteristics of the schools in the Oh-Kyo-Ku-San, and they will continue to study Korean Buddhism’s foundations long into the future.

During Korea’s three Dynasties (Kogurye, Baekche, and Silla) and through the unified Korye Dynasty different Zen schools evolved. Master Taego Bowoo was born during the Korye Dynasty which was a very important time in Korean Buddhism. Master Bowoo was the one that fully integrated the doctrinal schools and Zen schools into one homogenous entity. The king of the Korye Dynasty appointed Master Taego Bowoo as the Supreme Patriarch for the entire Dynasty, and the newly appointed Patriarch founded a governmental department to integrate Korea’s two main schools of Buddhism. His method actually became the main tenet for Korean Buddhism – mainly, the combination of the doctrinal school and the Zen school.

This goal was slightly diluted under the Cho Sun Dynasty.  Founded by a Confucian, the Cho Sun Dynasty hoped to better control Buddhism by collapsing it into two large schools, thus allowing it to establish in the country based on Confucian ideals.  King Tae Jong ordered the schools combined leaving only one doctrinal school and one Zen school, and this mandate stood until the Cho Sun Dynasty’s fall to the Japanese Empire in 1910. Prior to Master Taego Bowoo, Korean Buddhism had established many different schools with their own Patriarchs, Sanghas, and teachings. As a result of the efforts of Master Taego Bowoo and those of the Cho Sun Dynasty Korean Buddhism became fully unified.

Before Master Bowoo’s time, there were five doctrinal schools and nine Zen schools that each strongly developed their own teachings and Sanghas. Under his guidance, however, all of the schools were brought together and so nowadays most of Korean Buddhists consider themselves descendants of Master Taego Bowoo.